Britain’s former Junior National Champion and Young Riders squad member Eliza Stoddart retained her position at the top of the leaderboard at the end of the first day of dressage at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.
The Burghley first timer’s score of 28.7 with Priorspark Opposition Free proved unbeatable, with only Sarah Bullimore and Reve Du Rouet matching dressage pathfinders Tim Price and Bango’s score of 29.6 to sit equal second. Price also holds eighth place with Xavier Faer on 31.5, and still has his ‘trump card’ to play in the form last year’s winner Ringwood Sky Boy, who is the last to go down the centre line on the second day.
Another pair of Burghley debutants, France’s Sebastien Cavaillon and the eye-catching chestnut mare Sarah D’Argouges, finished the day in fourth place on 29.8.
Price is pleased to have two horses in the top eight, with his defending champion still to come.
“Bango excelled all expectation of what I had become accustomed to – he has always had the quality there but to produce it in the ring has not always been that easy. He was really nice today. Xavier Faer was also very good today – a step in the right direction but just a little disappointed with myself. I am excited to have those two in fairly good positions going forward,” Price said.
Commenting on the Captain Mark Phillips-designed cross-country course, Price said the track is “pretty punchy up front” and one he is looking forward to. He said both Bango and Xavier Faer are excellent jumpers.
While he is in for a busy weekend, Price said: “I had no reason not to bring them all and the fact that I have to work that little bit harder is just my problem.
“What often happens at somewhere like Burghley is something just goes wrong with one of your horses, so having there that are very much suited to this event – I had no logical reason not to bring them.
“I was really happy with Bango – he’s not always that easy but today was probably the best he’s done at this level, and Xavier Faer kept it together well so I’ve got to be pleased.
“They’re all good horses, and with another Ringwood Sky Boy as well I hope I can be fighting at the top end of the leaderboard.”
Fellow Kiwi rider, former Burghley winner Caroline Powell, is in 19th equal position with On the Brash, on 37.1 penalty points.
There are 33 more combinations to complete their dressage tests before the cross-country on Saturday.
Burghley has a total prize pot of more than £300,000, with £95,000 for the winner.